For almost three years, locals have flocked to Ignite Phoenix to check out what their peers are passionate about, by watching 5-minute, 20-slide presentations that expose audience members to a wide variety of unique interests. While music has made its way into the actual presentations, for the past two Ignite Phoenix events, the local music scene has also received great exposure from Ignite in the form of local compilations given out to all the audience members. The mixes are also available online for free and have featured some of the Valley's best up-and-coming artists (check out the first one here and the second one here.)
NT: Why was local music so important for you to incorporate at Ignite Phoenix?
Erika Delemarre: I had been hearing good things about Ignite Phoenix for quite some time before I finally attended my first event last summer. I was instantly inspired by the energy and knowledge flowing off stage and being exchanged between such a diverse audience. There was no doubt I had stumbled across something really unique, but I felt there was a crucial element missing. It was apparent that Ignite Phoenix was all about building community and supporting local creativity, but local music was barely represented at the event. I travel a lot for both work and as a hobby, and I've found that music can really define a city, region and even country. I couldn't in good conscience allow the event to continue to play Top 40 music to their attendees in a city that has a thriving local music scene. So, I ended up contacting the group of people that coordinate the event and proposing a few ideas for incorporating local music into Ignite. I never expected that they would end up inviting me onto their planning committee and provide me with a budget to produce a local music compilation. I was thrilled to suddenly have the opportunity to share a variety of fresh local music with more than 800 strangers and expose them to a music scene that many Phoenicians claim doesn't exist. It was also pretty awesome to be welcomed with open arms onto the Ignite team.
NT: Walk readers through the process of putting together the compilation every Ignite. How do you pick the bands and put it all together?
ED: The disc will be distributed for free to all of our audience members, presenters and volunteers and will be available for free download from our site next week. The first compilation album I did was really easy to put together because I have a solid group of bands that I work with on a regular basis. I approached them and explained what Ignite Phoenix is all about, and they were all really excited to donate a track. For the second and third compilations, I expanded a little farther beyond my list of direct contacts, approaching bands I had heard a lot about but hadn't worked with before.
I also asked around to trusted sources like Mitch Freedom (bassist in What Laura Says), Ami Johnson (she used to manage Modified Arts when it was a venue and now does some stuff for Rhythm Room and Yucca Tap Room), Stephen Chilton (Psyko Steve Presents), Katie Brodt (formerly of Stateside Presents and an all-around music lover), Becky Bartkowski (formerly from ASU's The Blaze and Phoenix New Times) and River Jones (he owns a local indie label called River Jones Music). They have all been a huge help in suggesting different bands that are making good noise across Arizona.
Once I get in contact with the bands, I explain to them the concept of Ignite Phoenix and how I'm working to expose our audiences to fresh local music. The bands typically jump on the opportunity to not only support the cause, but it's also completely free promotion of their music. I mean, if you're an independent artist, what's better than having your track put directly into the hands of 850 creative-types who are making waves in different areas of our city? Ignite Phoenix isn't just an event; it's a community of supportive people who share and help spread ideas. We thrive off of each other's passions, and music is one of mine, so why not spread the love?
Next step is mastering the album. Most of the tracks we receive are finished, but we have to even out all of the levels so there aren't huge swings in volume between the tracks. My Ignite Phoenix team member, Brian Carson, is an A/V guru and has done a great job helping us with this part.
Next, the mastered tracks go to Tempe Tape and Disc for duplication. Their CD printing process is really high-quality, and the discs always come back to us looking really great. We order the discs in bulk spindles (no packaging), and then our Ignite team works with our friends at Splinter Creative (the company that does a bunch of our graphic design) to assemble the CD packaging that they've designed, which is often integrated with our event program.
NT: Why did you approach the musicians on this compilation, and why do you feel they're worth checking out?
ED: Boys And Frogs and Buskin Cuffs were both involved with the SRP Garage Band Competition, a battle of the bands program my company, Entertainment Solutions, produces in conjunction with the Circle K Tempe Music Festival. Buskin Cuffs actually won the competition in 2010, and Boys And Frogs were one of our finalists, and I had been looking for a reason to work with both of them again because they're really talented musicians. Boys and Frogs creates some really beautiful indie rock. You should check out their video for "In Dreams," the song we're featuring on this disc. It has a really rad concept, and it's more like a short film than a music video. I can't not imagine the video when I listen to the song now. Buskin Cuffs is hard to pin down into one genre. They definitely have a funky, soulful vibe, and Nate Anderson from Ear Candy has professed that they're his favorite band.
Haymarket Squares actually performed during the intermission of Ignite Phoenix number seven before we added the compilation CD to the event. I thought it would be great to reach out to them and pull them into the mix.
Courtney Marie Andrews has created quite a name for herself both through her solo endeavors, but also with her recent work with Jimmy Eat World. She has the voice of an angel, and I'm convinced there's great things in store for her. I approached River Jones about featuring her music, and he introduced me to her labelmates, Owl & Penny and Steff Koeppen and The Articles, both of which I love. River Jones Music definitely has a signature folk sound, so it's no surprise that it carries through a little into this album since we feature four of his artists (Boys And Frogs are also on his label).
Hello The Mind Control, Mr. Meeble, Roar and Factories all came to me as suggestions from my friends that I listed above. It's awesome to be introduced to new music local music when you think you've heard it all.
The CD will be available for download from our web site by the middle of next week.
1. "In Dreams" - Boys And Frogs
2. "This Place" - Steff Koeppen and The Articles
3. "Two Beasts" - Owl & Penny
4. "Sweet Lace" - Courtney Marie Andrews
5. "Honey" - Hello The Mind Control
6. "I Can't Handle Change" - Roar
7. "Domesticats" - Buskin Cuffs
8. "All Along" - The Haymarket Squares
9. "Pressure" - Factories
10. "Gift" - Mr. Meeble
NT: Why should people support Ignite, and the local music scene in general?
ED: I used to get a overwhelmed by the idea of seeking out community in the vastness of our city. I was having a really hard time viewing Phoenix as a place with a defined culture with residents who actually care about the city and what happens here. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to get around to attending an Ignite Phoenix, because the event literally flipped my whole perspective. Even though we are all spread out in different parts of this concrete jungle, and it's easy to feel disconnected from humanity, there's a thriving network of people who aren't apathetic and who are actually doing something to make this little desert town more hospitable.
I often compare Ignite to speed dating in the sense that you're exposed to concentrated, passionate knowledge in a rapid-fire sequence. The high-energy presentations are entertaining and the knowledge gained from them is addictive. It's no wonder we have so many repeat audience members, and our event typically sells out within a few hours of going on sale.
Like I mentioned earlier, music is a defining feature of any community and culture. Some people don't have the desire to pursue new music beyond what corporate radio or MTV feeds to them, and that's OK. I mean, I feel sorry for them, but hey, if that's what they like, good for them! I can tell you again and again, "You really need to check out What Laura Says' new album," or "You're going to be blown away by Black Carl's live performance," but it takes a little internal initiative to get someone to buy an album or go to a show of an artist they're not familiar with. I guess that's one of my not-so-secret motives behind these compilation albums. I want our audience to get into their cars after our event and pop our compilation album into their CD players. Hopefully, they'll spin the disc at least a few times and discover something they really like. If each person who listens to these albums discovers at least one local artist they love, I've done something right. And hopefully that's the beginning of the snowball effect that will get them to pick up a new album or attend a local show and support these local artists that are creating the sound of our city.